For the third straight year, the Missouri-Kansas matchup will end the regular season of both basketball teams, but it may not be the best matchup on Missouri’s 2003-04 schedule.
Included on the schedule are games against defending national champion Syracuse, Iowa, Texas and UNLV as well as Kansas, and that’s only the home games.
The matchup against the Jayhawks, on March 7, will be the last game played in Hearnes Center. The Tigers, who have played in Hearnes Center since 1972, will begin play in their new arena in 2004-05.
On the road, the Tigers will also face Indiana, Gonzaga, Illinois, Memphis, Texas Tech and Kansas.
Ten of the Tigers’ opponents this season reached the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
The big names begin to come to Hearnes Center in January, starting with Iowa, which the Tigers defeated 88-82 in Iowa City, Iowa, last season. The Hawkeyes will face MU on Jan. 3. Defending champion Syracuse continues its series with the Tigers on Jan. 12.
Though the Orangemen will be without Carmelo Anthony, their leading scorer from last season who left school for the NBA, they will face a similar Tiger lineup. MU returns four starters to a team that reached the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Seniors Arthur Johnson, Rickey Paulding and Travon Bryant form a nucleus that finished fifth in the Big 12 Conference, and sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney brings more experience.
Some new names will join the group. Jason Conley, who transferred from VMI, is eligible to play in 2004. Randy Pulley, a transfer from Barton Community College, should also see playing time for the Tigers. Others on the Tigers’ bench include freshmen Linas Kleiza, Thomas Gardner and Spencer Laurie, who was named the 2003 Missouri State High School Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.
The Tigers will get their first look at the Jayhawks on Feb. 2 in Lawrence, Kan., and MU will close its road schedule with a matchup against Bobby Knight and Texas Tech on Mar. 3.
After three exhibition games, which will be played in late October and November, the Tigers waste little time before traveling to play some big out-of-conference games. On Dec. 6, the Tigers will go to Bloomington, Ind., to face the Indiana Hoosiers.
A week later, the Tigers travel to face Gonzaga in Seattle, Missouri goes up against another big name, Illinois, on Dec. 23 in the Braggin’ Rights Game.